Does anyone realize that the whole poem is a facade? The mirror says that it's unjudgemental and it just reflects everything it sees.... it calls the candles and moon liars and goes on about how the woman needs the mirror. It also compares and places itself within the ranks of godliness.
I'm wondering, though, if it really is Plath's conscience that is the terrible fish? It could be that I haven't studied enough on Plath's background to know her well, but I'd like some input on friends or family members that could be the old woman...
Does anyone actually understand my train of thought on this?
It was amazingly heart wrenching. I believe that that woman in the poem is a young girl in the beginningófull of beauty, smiles, and laughter. Nearing the middle, she changes into the old woman that could have been her mother. Many times, children see their parents as "old". So, when she morphed into this older woman, she saw herself with wrinkles and age. A midlife crisis, if you will. She wants to hang onto the lies that people tell her - that she's beautiful, young, and everything that a woman wants to be. Desired, attractive, intelligent - but in reality, her beauty is failing, her intelligence will be sought out with insanity, being desired is no longer in the matter. To me, poems should not be analyzed for the sake of keeping the attraction to the poem. Analyzing poems is annihilating them; but, to understand the author is to better understand the poem.
What a bittersweet poem. After reading all the other comments, I can see that the interpretation of art is truly subjective indeed.
What I saw in Sylvia's poem was this: She describes what is like to be a mirror and what the mirror's dispassionate, detached purpose is until she writes: "I have looked at it so long I think it is a part of my heart. [...] "Faces and darkness separate us over and over." What I think she is referring to here is the despair of loneliness and depression, of relationships come and gone, with none bearing the fruit of a soul- satisfying true love. "A woman bends over me. Searching my reaches for what she really is."
I think the woman, Sylvia perhaps, is looking at her reflection in the water. She feels lost, she is empty, she has no satisfying love in her life, perhaps she wasted her youth on a love that went nowhere. "Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon. I see her back, and reflect it faithfully." Now I took this in two ways. The first was that she turned away from looking at her reflection in the lake, turning her back toward it and the lake reflected her back back to her as a good mirror would. And I also took it to mean that the mirror "saw her back", in other words, the next time she picked up the mirror to look at herself. "She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands." The woman's hands are agitated and how would the mirror know that if she were not clutching the handle in an agitated fashion or clutching at her face in despair, because she is also crying.
I believe she is looking with despair into the mirror because she see's that she's now old, and she's having a moment of absolute desperation, a moment of agonizing truth. She feels her life has no real meaning and has been wasted perhaps on a love as I mentioned that may never have worked out right because "she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon." To me candles signify romantic love and the moon represents promises, romance, dreaming of one's love, which can be a lie when the love you're dreaming of is inappropriate for you or not loving you in return. They also signify to me the softening of one's aging appearance in the soft light, rather than seeing the truth of aging in a brighter, truer light. She is definitely ageing because "In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish."
Fish are for the most part, unattractive and ugly and aging can make a woman feel the same way. Her youth is passed and age is gaining on her. "Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness." When one is depressed and unhappy with their life, one way to deal with the darkness is to just do what one must do every day, that is, you go through the motions, you get up, get yourself ready and get on with your day. When you've got no one loving you, and your life is at the pivotal point where you realize your youth is gone and you've done nothing with your life but involve yourself in a series of unsuccessful loves, your age will rise toward you "like a terrible fish"ß and repel you, most certainly. It's a terrible feeling. Trust me.
I studied this poem during my course in poetry, and I really enjoyed it. What I'd like to add is that the last line of the 1st stanza of her poem(Mirror)reflected her old age as dark and separated her from others, in comparison to the 7th line of the same stanza which presents her youth in a pink colour.
Personally I saw the poem as a vivid portrayal of a woman's toil through a very reliable persona the 'mirror.' The pathetic irony is that in truth or deception she is ultimately wretched hence the juxtaposition of the words 'cruel' and 'truthful' in verse 3. As for the second stanza, the poet's emphasis is stressed upon the relentlessness of time which has taken its toll on the woman. I personally feel the image of the 'young girl' who has 'drowned' expresses an innocence and blissful ignorance which has long passed and tossed her willy-nilly in the harshness of this tough reality. I also feel that such insight into one individual's suffering would be nowhere near possible without the involvement of the self, leading me to believe that the woman is in fact Sylvia herself. Hints at this include her reference to; 'those liars, the candles and the moon,' in which the candles and the moon are both of romantic symbolic value, and it is known for a fact that she and her ex-husband were not of good relation.
To me, the persona is suffering from depression, she looks into the lake obsessively unable to reconcile her past and fully understand who she is. Without this understanding she cannot move foward and thus is doomed: "searching my reaches for what she really is". The young girl who has drowned in the lake could be interpreted as representational of a youth wasted by anxiety and constant self evaluation. She never reaches this understanding of self and therefore is doomed to staring into the lake for the answers she wants to see but the lake denies her this by instead being bluntly: "truthful". The young girl is replaced by the old woman to symbolise the both; the passing of time and of physical change although her insecurities remain the same. The last line that describes the old woman: "rise towards her day after day like a terrible fish" could refer to the woman being consumed by her own anxieties, which is slowly rising to the surface, the way a fish may swim just below the surface of a river, visible to the eye yet not quite tangible.
When I read the poem "Mirror" the only thing I got out of it was the role the mirror plays when one seeks or denies the truth about themselves. Where the poem says: "A woman bends over me/Searching my reaches for what she really is" that tells me that this woman is not happy about her appearance of personality and looks away because she denies herself that appearance that the mirror reflected of her. Where it says: "Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon. I see her back, and reflect it faithfully", When she looked away she did not want the truth but wanted the joyful lies of the moon or candles, in this case the moon and candles in my opinion represent people who lie to her, telling her she is a great beautiful person, when in reality she is not. There are many people who refuse to accept reality, and sometimes causes them to stress themselves out. Just like in the case of Sylvia Plath, she could'nt accept the fact that in her time women were still expected to do what was known as traditional roles which were cook, clean, and care even though women were fighting for their rights, causing her stress and to commit suicide.
From my understanding, Sylvia Plath is in some way trying to find her identity so she turns to her own reflection and tries to see who she is. In the poem when she says "whatever is see I swallow immediately" she is saying that she takes whats around her and she trys to make something out of it, in a way to find out what her purpose is.
I feel that this poem has a lot of different meanings. When Sylvia refers to the mirror as being not cruel and truthful, she means that what you see is not false. As with the moon and candles showing you in a different light, the mirror is not going to lie to you. Or it could be saying that the way she sees herself, others may not see her the same way. They may look at her as the opposite of what she thinks of herself. Also, the poem talks about her inner child escaping and the older version of herself rising, that could probably mean that she had to grow up fast. She didn't have time to enjoy her childhood.Also when she refers to the older version of herself as being a terrible fish, she may mean that she sees herself as an ugly old woman and not the way she first portrayed herself.I'm not exactly sure which of these meanings are correct but as you can see I had many different thoughts after reading this poem a good three to four times.
I really like this poem because it holds so much truth. My interpretation was that, this was simply a mirror telling the story of its purpose and existance. I think the mirror represented truth. It's the only place that you can find really find unbiased truth. We lie to ourselves, others lie to us and so I think that what Plath is trying to portray is that when you finally do see the truth, its too much to bear and that's why the woman in the story acts the way she does. This woman must look to others to determine her identity, but when she looks inside herself (the reflection in the lake), she realizes that she is not a great person and depends on what others say about her instead of trying to form an identity for herself. The 'mirror' says: "In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman/Rises toward her day after day." I think this is the main point of the poem. The woman does not want to accept the fact that she is aging. Maybe she associates youth with beauty and thinks that she will lose her beauty as she gets older. Therefore, she looks to others, her peers, to comfort her by reassuring her that she is beautiful. But if she can't find it in herself, is she truly beautiful?
I have a theory on Plath's poem 'Mirror'. I seem to be the only one thinking in this way, however I would appreciate any of your thoughts!!
I believe that this poem has a hidden meaning and shouldn't just be taken at face value. I feel that Plath uses the mirror as a symbol of herself. Yet, in the second stanza she describes a woman who looks into the mirror/lake. I also believe that this is her. One refers to her sane state of mental health (the mirror) and the other refers to the insane person within Plath. She describeds herself as "silver"(I believe this is a play on Sylvia) "and exact" meaning that she is a normal being with no disturbed thoughts or uncontrolled emotions.
"faces and darkness separate us over and over." Here I believe Plath is describing transferring from one state to the other - darkness symbolises her depression and faces are her demons that bring her into a state of insanity. This is reinforced in the second stanza: "she comes and goes."
However, I'm not exactly sure on which represents the true Plath and which the insane side to her. In the second stanza it could be argued that the woman is the 'real' Plath as she describes this being emerging from within the lake which could represent when the demons take over she finds it hard to find her state of sanaty and emerg from the lake! Any thoughts??
"Mirror" is one of Sylvia Plath's most popular poems. The poem handles an issue that is of pivotal importance to all women women's submission to male domination.
Throughout the poem Sylvia Plath sheds light on the status of women within society; in the same way that women depend on the mirror, they depend on men. According to Sylvia, women are marginalized, belittled and entangled in male-domination. The poem is a kind of rebellion against the so-above-depicted status of women. Sylvia stresses the idea of women's ability and capacity to introduce a revolutionary change. A change, the seeds of which are planted thanks to the poem.
Sylvia, through her poem, tries to raise women's awareness towards their status, and thus, prepares them for rebellion against women's silence, submission and inferiority. The phrase "like a terrible fish" further reinforces the idea of rebellion. Women's psyche doesn't merely consist in beauty, fairness and gentleness ; it can turn out to "terrible" when women's rights are violated with no consideration.
One of the pleasures of reading poetry is the opportunity it offers for personal reflection, but since I am not a woman and the poem concerns only women, I can not normally relate to it. However, every man can relate to this poem in the sense that it provides us with an insight into women's sufferings and the hardships they undergo because of men's arrogance and egoism.
I think this poem is amazing! I think the persona in the poem, which is the author, looks into the mirror and tells the truth, the story not as the mirror, but as the reflection in the mirror. She is afraid to admit the truth but once the image has reflected in the mirror the truth is unveiled. The woman is getting old and she knows it deep inside but still does not have the courage to admit it to her self.
The reflection in the mirror is like her subconsciousness which is freed by the mirror's purity and speaks out through the mirror's point of view. This shows the power of the mirror, symbol of truth; even if one does not want to reveal the facts the truth is obvious and speaks for it self. The mirror is not a god nor has some magical powers; it is just "truthful" and does not have "preconceptions"; unlike humans who are biased and superstitious. Telling or admitting the reality even to your self is not easy. People tend to deny the truth and live in imaginary world where they are young and beautiful, that ís the way the she looks to the candles and the moon turning her back to the mirror who is reflecting it "faithfully".
The mirror in the poem symbolizes truth. Truth is a powerful tool in the piece. The mirror is cold and sharp like its touch. When you look into a mirror you only see what is there, the phase "Whatever I see I swallow immediately" supports my statement. If a person has flaws a mirror will be straight forward and display them with no hesitation "Searching my reaches for what she really is." In the first stanza, the "I am not cruel, only truthful" phrase reveals the mirror's personality and charter. Unlike humans a mirror cannot judge her with opinions. Sylvia Plath uses onomatopoeia to give the mirror human characteristics. On line five she writes "The eye of a little god, four-cornered" which shows that the mirror is given God-like powers over the women. It becomes almost an obsessive relationship between the mirror and the women because she looks to the mirror for comfort only to confronted with the truth about your youth wasting away.
The mirror triggers conscious and unconscious memories of her life faithfully. On line thirteen it reads "I see her back, and reflect it faithfully" once again showing that truthful charter of the mirror. Regardless of the fact she hates her reflection the women becomes dependent on the mirror, and on line fifteen you can see that relationship were it saws "I am important to her. She comes and goes." The phase "I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions." Shows that a mirror is not capable of showing anything else, then what is put in front of it. The mirror shows no color and has no preference.
Although the mirror revels reality the women still clings to objects that blind her from the truth. In the second stanza, the phases "Then she turn to those liars, the candles or the moon" shows that the women is attempting to hide her flaws behind the darkness. It is very clever that Sylvia Plath used the candles and moon light in this poem because those two items usually are used for romance. While searching for her identity she contradicts herself by running away from the truth, instead of embracing it.
Even away from the mirror the woman is forced to face reality through nature. The lake is very similar to the mirror because they both reveal the women's true identity and honest reflection. Plath uses a metaphor to refer to the candles and moon as liars because they just reveal shadows, and they only show half of the big pictures. The candles and moonlight don't give the exact truth like the mirror. The candles and moon are just distractions to finding the essential self. The candle and moonlight show her a deceptive delusion by hiding wrinkles, dentures, hair loss, and weight gain.
The phase "Now I am a lake" reveals the transformation of the mirror. The women then realizes even outside of her home she can't escape the truth. It is obvious that she is unhappy with her reflection. On line fourteen it states "She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands," which implies that she is ageing, and it is difficult for her to except the ageing process with open arms. While she is crying the mirror sees it was a reward and has no sympathy. The woman misses the youth and beauty of the young girl she was. On line seventeen it states "In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman." It is very difficult for the women to go though the aging process because she feels depressed and insignificant.
The last line of the poem reads "Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish," indicates that she feels insecure about her reflection. It is interesting that Plath chose a fish instead of any other animal. When Plath used a lake in place of a mirror she may have needed a creature that lived in a lake to compare her feeling of living in the mirror. She is trying to make to point that a fish depends on water the same way the woman depends on the mirror. Usually fish are very glamorous animals because they come in all different shapes and sizes, but the women in the poem contradicts that stereotype. She sees herself as a something terrible because of her fading beauty. Sylvia Plath suffered from depression and had very little compassion for herself. This poem shows how she was scared from the truth the mirror was showing her. Throughout this poem there is a theme of the truth and lies. The poem "Mirror" is about a women torn between the true picture of herself and the distorted image others see of her.
"Mirror", I think is one of Plath's best pieces. Instead of talking from the view of a person or omnious being it's from the very mirror itself. This mirror which "meditates" on her wall. Like a god, it has power over her, it is "not cruel, only truthful". It "swallow"s her. She is its follower, she worrships it for its truthfulness. Then when she is away from home she finds her mirror, her god in the lake. She lowers herself to it, "searching my reaches for what she really is". She is searching for her identity so she turns to her god of which she has placed her faith. She may look to the moon or stars with their romance but forever returns to the mirrors truth. It hurts but she needs it, craves it, it is important to her. She returns day after day, growing old, age coming to her "like a terrible fish"
I think the mirror deals with a number of aspects and issues people, especially women go through; depression, insignificance,delusion, obssesion. Most of you have commented on nearly all of these, but have yet to analyse the importance of the mirror itself in the woman's life. It has power over the woman and it knows it "I am important to her" she is always finding herself coming back to it "she comes and goes, each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness" and in effect this is the truth with all of us.
How many times to we look into a mirror everyday? Most of us could not go through life without looking for our reflections "now I am a lake." Even if the mirror is not near her it still surrounds her whever she is and the stimes she finds herself straying from the mirror when she "turns to those liars, the candles or the moon" she always comes back to "reward" the mirror with "with tears and an agitation of hands" because it tells her the truth whether she likes it or not. The mirror has watched her grow from a young girl to the woman she is today and will still watch her grow into the older woman she will become; "In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman/ Rises toward her day after day"
She is so insignificant compared to this mirror even though it is little object that can easily be broken , the pieces that it has broken into will always reflect and will do so "faithfully." The mirror is the woman's "little god" she "bends" to look to it like servants to a king. It is "four cornered," contained in this "silver and exact" frame is so much truth and Plath is trying to say that truth is a powerful thing. The mirror is not capable of showing anything else but truth, it entails no other emotion, it is cold and sharp like its touch. Please reply if you agree or have never thought of the mirror this way before, Or email me if you have any other suggestions about the mirror's power.
I am not as in depth in my knowledge of Sylvia Plath as others seem to be here in this forum but after reading "Mirror" I have developed some of my own ideas.
Beginning with the "no preconceptions" the mirror has, it is true, what you see is what you truly are. A mirror has the uncanny ability to show who we are not only on the surface but on the inside as well. Our true self is reflected on our faces and how we present ourselves daily; "only truthful". The "eye of a little god" should not be interpreted as a higher being but more of a puppet-master, dictating how we should change our appearance to suit the rest of our daily lives; i.e., if we are going out and look a bit tired, we change our face coloring or brush our hair. We accessorize to suit the occasion. The mirror may be all knowing and truthful but it is ultimately ourselves who make the changes to appease the vision before us.
Realizing that the diffusion of light caused by candles and moonlight is not a true reflection of our physical appearance, those two are "liars", liars to our egos to make us think we are better and maybe softer than what we really are as humans. But the mirror always tells the truth. The woman who "rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands" must come to realise that she is who she is. Her youth is now faded and no mattter how hard she tries to dilude herself into looking younger on the surface, the mirror is always there to show her the truth. Yes, the mirror has "drowned a young girl" and replaced her with a middle-aged woman. One who has life's experiences etched in the lines and creases of her face. This should be something to be proud of, not shyed away from. Knowing that Ms Plath suffered from depression and eventually took her own life, it is too bad that she did not have it within herself to see that the next step of life's beauty should not be shunned but embraced.
I am a tenth grade student completing a research paper about Sylvia Plath. Using the Contemporary Literary Criticism volumes at my schoolís library and some comments on this forum, I have concluded the following about her poem "Mirror".
Plath portrays herself as both the mirror and the woman throughout the poem, reflecting her two personalities. Initially, Plath is the mirror: an object that reflects any image that is in front of it. Like the mirror, Plath was a perfect reflection of whatever anyone wanted her to be. She received near perfect marks through college and conformed to societyís demands into her marriage. However, as the woman in her poem, Plath is unable to accept herself and turns away from the ìtruthfulî mirror to admire her moonlight shadow, a deceitful representation of her conformist faÁade. Under the veil, Plath contained her ìmonster,î her true self. She ìadored [her father] and despised him, and... probably wished many times that he were deadî because of her divergent personalities (quote from a Sylvia Plath radio interviewóyes, she said that she wanted to kill her dad). In ìMirror,î Plath accepts that her ìterrible fishî is preparing to emerge from the shadows as the true shape of Plathís personality, perhaps the cause of her suicide.
P.S. Go to the new Denver 2600! (Borders Cafe at Arapahoe and Parker 1st and 3rd Fridays of the month, 5 to 8)
It saddened me to read the comments attacking people for over-analysing 'Mirror'. Plath knew her true meaning of course but once a poem is published it becomes public property. I love the freedom that I can read a poem, love it and spend the rest of my life dissecting it or read a poem,hate it but enjoy spending the rest of my life butchering it. The important thing is, in such places like these message boards, in both cases, my opinion can be mirrored or smashed.
I had to analyze this poem for a project and well I was stuck at it for quite some time and this page really helped me. But what suprises me is that not many people have talked about how "searching my reaches for what she really is" could also mean inner beauty and the whole everything is opposite on the other side of the mirror or probably the whole Alice in Wonderland mirror thing if anyone could come up with something like that then I would like to read it and I hope you would mail it to me or just send your comments on this site. Thanks!(Are you perhaps referring to Alice Through the Looking Glass rather than Alice In Wonderland? EC)
The poem refers much to Narcissus and shows Sylvia Plath's dramatic depression and suicidal images. When the poem states that "turns to those liars, the candles or the moon" she refers to the fact that they are untruthful because they do not reflect the truth only the mirror is the only object that reflects the real truth because it has no preconceptions.
I interpret this poem a little differently: I agree that Sylvia is depressed about what she sees in "her mirror" she is aging, has been lied to, lonely, and most of all hopeless. The part where she says: "the eye of a little God" she says this because her God is small. She has no faith, if she had faith she would have a much larger God. She is a fish. A fish is lost in a lake of depression which is her reflection of herself. This poem gives me a feeling that her depression is self induced. Sylvia is lost by what she sees in the mirror. She may ask, "is this truth or is this a lie?" The "Mirror" is a truely a work of art. Regardless of how Sylvia died, this poem opens my eyes to truth, reality of what I see myself as, how "big" is my God? and to embrace the child (pink speckles) within myself, and her negative self talk of being a terrible person. She sees herself as someone terrible because she has not found a much larger God who can comfort her inner child that has been damaged by her marriage and childhood.
I also did not see any reference to God in this poem. However, I do not think the poem was decidedly negative or positive; it is simply honest about growing older and losing your youth.
I disagree completely that Sylvia Plath's poem "Mirror" is in fact a reference to God. I do not believe it is in anyway a reference to how God perceives us, or what we do. Nor do I believe it to be a metaphor for Plath's relationship with Hughes. There are an indefinite amount of ideas one can conjure up about what this poem is trying to convey to the reader for example: "I think it is part of my heart but it flickers." This could be a reference to heart problems Plath suffered... The over analysing of poetry is an injustice to the simple beauty that poetry is. You do not need to be an academic, or a philosopher to read a poem and understand it. You do not need to search for a deeper meaning, if a simple one has already shown itself to you. The one thing that I believe should always be followed in analysing poetry is; "If the poem has no evidence of what you are stating at all, then your statement is not true." To give my own oppinion on the poem, I will simply say I believe that the mirror and the woman are a metaphor for Plath's search for what she wants to see as herself, in her troubled mind. The mirror always shows the truth, and Plath knows that it will never show her as the young woman she once was, that was "drowned in the mirror" long ago. This poem is dark and depressing.. but beautifully written by the dark and depressed Plath. I wish she were here today, so she may share with us the true meaning of the poem only she will ever honestly know... It has been amazing to read all the different ideas and views on "The Mirror" and constantly enlightening to hear new ones. As a member of a year 11 literature class, I love to open my mind with others peoples views, even if they are delving a little too deep...
The inanimate object of the mirror is portrayed in a sinister way. Whatever it sees, it swallows. It engulfs. Inainimate though it is, Sylvia still gives it powers : 'I meditate'. She gives it a heart : it gazes at the pink speckled wall so long, the wall becomes part of that heart. The rather chilling description of a four-cornered eye further unsettles us; Sylvia tells us this is the shape of the eye of a little god. So the mirror has power and control, but it also has feelings. It misses the pink speckled wall whenever darkness falls or a face comes near : these things 'separate us' - 'us' being the mirror and the wall upon which it meditates. Sylvia seems to describe the interruption of deep thought by unwanted visitors - much as she has described her jealously-guarded submersion into her own thoughts and paranoia elsewhere. Visitors to her thoughts and to the mirror are jarring, they separate her from her heart and the mirror from its wall. What the mirror loves to see and contemplate is the wall ; all else are interruptions which it waits patiently to be over. The indifference of the mirror as it calmly observes all these things is perhaps the most chilling thing of all. But it is clear that it is always waiting to be reunited with its wall - part of its heart. Like Sylvia, the mirror does not wish its private meditations - even on the bland - to be intruded upon and her choice of language shows that.4. Country: England
The poem "Mirror" by Sylvia Plath takes us into the thoughts of a woman by presenting the situation from an interesting perspective. The "Mirror" is a poem which incorporates various poetic techniques that are effective in shaping meaning and creating a mood. It features the techniques of personification which give significance to the poem and reflect the poetís life as well as discussing themes such as a womanís role, depression, and the passage of time. It also uses imaginative language that also contributes to the mood, which is dark and emotional.
Personification is used in the poem creatively and effectively. This technique makes the poem more intriguing and original, it is what makes the poem successful. The poet gives life to an object, which is the mirror, this creates perspective. It is effective in communicating the circumstances because it enables the poet to reflect the mood precisely yet simply. As a mirror has no emotion and cannot depict events with prejudice the reader is able to get a description free of bias, true to the situation, as opposed to the candle and the moon whose light makes life seem more beautiful than it is. The poet uses this device because it enables her to present her ideas and emotions in an interesting way.
The mirror is compared to the persona. It is given sight however not an opinion, this may be commenting on the place of women in the world at the time of the poet. The mirror looks onto and absorbs events without emotion; women often are required to do the same. This is emphasized in the first stanza of the poem. Women in history have often been forced by society into roles requiring beauty but little intelligence or opinion; they have been stereotyped over time and have led restricted lives. Sylviaís experiences with this are depicted by a dull, four sided mirror.
This is the first Sylvia poem I ever read (for an assignment) and I Have looked deeply into it and found so much meaning.
This is in reference to a message already placed. The mirror doesn't tell lies, it in fact tells the truth. It is the candles and moon that lie about how people appear as the light they produce are more faltering than the truthful reflection than that the mirror shows.
Mirror is the first poem I have read from Sylvia Plath. I like the line dicussing the way the mirror is,"..not cruel. I am truthful-.." We always views our selves truthfully in the morror and face the outside world in nothing but lies. This poem shows how we, ourselves, can be our own best friend. We can cry and face our most darkest fears by ourself. I really like the way she touches apon the idea of how easily we can be fooled to think the "real" world is so much better. The darkness of the poem is what really got me. The line "I am important to her." is very touching. I like how just a simple object can mean a great deal to any person. Not for its materialistic side but its value. The mirror sounds as if it has a job to be there for her, never letting her down with lies.
I am currently working on a paper in which I am to choose three poems and analyze them. I have chosen to analyze "For a Fatherless Son", "Stillborn" , and possibly "Mirror" or "Poppies in July." "For a Fatherless Son" I believe is almost self explanatory. I do not believe that there is a hidden meaning in it. This poem was written possibly for her son after Ted left them. I know Plath has a miscarriage but I wasn't sure if she wrote "Stillborn" before or after, and if before what caused her to write about something so sad. In the poem it almost sounds as if she is referring to the stillborn as a pig that has been put in a jar. Is that what she is really saying? "Mirror" is a poem about her growing old and that the mirror even tells lies with the help of the moon and candles. Does the reference to the lake have anything to do with her suicide attempts? I would greatly appreciate any comments anyone has about these poems. Thanks!
Mirror chiefly concerns Sylvia Plath's divided self. The reflecting mirror is the self that is deeply depressed, she is in a state of trance, the depression she experiences is almost paralysing her. The woman looking into the mirror is Sylvia as a growing woman, searching for the psychologically healthy self which she knows exists, but isn't quite sure how to surface it(surface it from the depths of the lake, which is a metaphor for the depths of her repressed mind). In her journals Plath revealed that she was aware of her desperate, depressed states, and with the help of her doctor, together with self-disipline she hoped to learn to deal with her negative feelings and morbid thoughts. The woman growing older is Sylvia attempting to handle these emotions.
"In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish."
The last part of this poem changes the meaning of everything else in the previous lines. This poem is about the aging process and more specifically, the woman coming to the realization that, one day, she will die. Another interesting point to make about this poem is the aversion from the mirror to the lake. It is important to note the fact that Sylvia tried to drown herself. With that in mind, the water and the mirror have similarities (most notably the ability to reflect); but the lake can be skewed (i.e. ripples in the water).
I am 17 years old and currently taking a college English course. When we were asked to analyze one of the numerous poems we had studied this lesson, I was overjoyed to learn that Sylvia Plath's poem Mirror was one of them. I had analyzed this poem before on my own, and I must say that it is perhaps my favourite poem to date.
Sylvia has been a very influential writer, and i have been "under the influence," you might say, since the first time I read this poem. Perhaps my favourite part of the poem is when the mirror talks about being the eye of a little god. In our culture, women are expected to fulfill a standard of how they look. Like it or not, all women use mirrors to help them fulfill this standard (I must say it is quite difficult to apply eyeliner without one). For many women, the art of beauty is centered around their mirror. They spend their whole lives in front of it, trying to paint themselves the way society deems beautiful. This also ties in the lines " in me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman..." The art of beauty is directly connected to the worshipping of the mirror. Many believe that if they stand in front of it and primp long enough, they will appease the mirror, allowing them to see what theyve worked so hard to obtain: beauty according to society's standards.
Personally this poem is a great representation of the human will power just being treaded and treaded upon yet the poor soul just laughing in authority's face. This poem is almost reminiscent of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The YellowWall-Paper In both works no one will believe the character is crazy or sick, and in the poem's case or let her die. Another work reminescent of "Lady Lazarus" is a song entitled "Trouble Breathing" by the indie-rock band Alkaline Trio. Maybe writers have been inspired by the open soul poem as this. I personally have become accustomed to reciting this poem everywhere.
Has anyone wondered if it would have been possible to determine the speaker if Plath had not given us Mirror as the poem's title?
The Mirror by Sylvia Plath is one of my all-time favourite poems.
Jeffery from Orlando (see comments above, near top, Sept 4th 2002) has the right idea with his comments this poem, I agree whole-heartedly with him. To me, the entire meaning of the poem is this: Sylvia is simply using the mirror as a symbol of her abject horror at old age and its ravages on her face. This is something which women all over the world can identify with. She is depressed that her youth is over, and the mirror has no sympathy, it simply reflects her pain.
Sylvia was prone to depression, and her age-anxiety in this poem is a classic, highly-eloquent example of this particular cause of depression, which affects so many of us as we get into our thirties and forties.
In her symbols "those liars, the candles or the moon", she is talking about the soft lighting which these can give, such lighting will flatter an older person's features. But the mirror simply reflects the true state of someone's face.
When she gets to her analogy of the lake, she gets to the crux of the matter, while cleverly speaking from the lake/mirror's point of view:
Poor Sylvia could not get over one simple fact of life: that we all have to get old. Possibly because creative people often place a lot of importance on beauty, therefore an artist or poet's self-worth will diminish more than usual(for most people), once their own looks begin to fade.
Sara L. Russell
I am here to share a few words about this beautiful, yet melancholy poem "Mirror", by Sylvia Plath. To me this is a very inspiring and powerful poem that tries to helps everyone feel comfortable with the person that God has created. I see this poem as the mirror and lake being a symbol of "God". We worship him and search for answers in him all the time. The mirror is "the eye of a little god, four cornered." I agree with this personification of a mirror...the mirror desperately reaches out to its onlooker, but conscious either makes the person want to change things about themself mentally and physically. Society is so close minded about a person's inner self, but always says that someone is beautiful because of how they look, how skinny they are, how many pimples someone has, and everything else...and everyone feels that this is the purpose of a mirror....the mirror honestly wants you to feel comfortable and accept the person you see in the reflection of that mirror and make the changes inside because thats what really matters...make your soul beautiful and everyone will love you back. So, my advice to everyone, "Do not judge a book by its cover". Make the change WITHIN yourself.
Is Plath the mirror? Or is it just an illusion perceived at first contact when reading the poem? Personally I believe Plath is the mirror. In the first stanza, she talks about the mirror in an object perspective; what reflection is given and the position it holds in a room. The description of the mirror is also personified, allowing for a greater understanding to the emotional sense of the mirror. The feelings of Plath when looking at herself.
It is the second stanza, however, which conveys the self-awareness of Plath. Through the use of the mirror, that is, the reflection concept, Plath is able to describe what she sees in herself. Plath rewards the mirror with tears for she does not like what she sees in herself. Day by day, it is as if Plath looks into the eyes of a 'terrible fish' - a sad, angered, emotionless woman. The use of lines such as 'only truthful', and 'reflect it faithfully', reinforce that Plath is telling the truth of her life and self. She is not in denial but in awareness of who she has become.
In writing this poem, Plath is but 'old'. Thus, when she describes the reflection being that of 'an old woman', I begin to comprehend what Plath feels and appears to herself. Life was too disrupted by sadness, misfortune, and depression that she feels nothing remains for her to do or that any sense of esteem has wasted. hence, the concept of 'old'; used, weary, exhausted and no sense of renewal within her life.
The first six lines of this poem are factual and generally free of emotions in reference to the mirror. They provide images of the exactness and sharp edges of the mirror. The last few lines of this stanza indicate that the mirror has formed some sort of relationship with the pink-speckled wall that it must face day after day. The line that says "Now I am a lake" expresses some sort of change, because a lake is much more fluid and impermanent than a mirror. This change is the vanishing of youth in the woman, who now depends on the light of liars like a candle and the moon. The tears and the agitation of hands symbolize the frustration the woman feels when she sees herself in the mirror. The reference to the fish is a metaphor for the youth that has slipped through her fingers, like a fish might do when you try to hold it. I really don't think this poem has any underlying religious meaning to it like some people have said, that sounds like overanalyzing to me.Santina Di Gesu
Wednesday, April 2, 2003
March 5th. 2003
What I love about this poem is that it is so self explanatory, yet at the same time...it isn't. For instance, when I first read it, I got all of these really mystical-like visuals and colors in my mind, and I got the feel of the poem, but I didn't really know exactly what the heck she was LITERALLY talking about.
So she explains what her idea of a mirror is, trying to trick us by saying how "truthful" a mirror is, which is a lie. A mirror only reflects what you see yourself. (Also, the saying 'Smoke and mirrors' is common when talking about trickery.) She then goes on to give her idea of the life of a mirror. Pretty bland, I would assume, just hanging on a wall, looking at the adjacent wall all day till it seems like that wall is a part of you, until it gets dark and then it starts all over again when someone turns on the lights...however, can you think of a mirror that knows you better than anything, perhaps anyone? I think I can. Often, it's found in a room where you would most likely have pink wallpaper with speckles on it. It's a room we all try to make a little 'feminine' as the room itself has a rather icky connotation at times. Zee bathroom, of course."Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is."
This change is to throw us off. Though water is in essence a mirror, I think we as humans tend to romanticize water, whereas a mirror is rather sterile. But when you think about it--they both do the same thing. So, usually, we can find our own personal lake right below our little personal mirror in the bathroom. It's called zee sink. Each morning when we wake, we usually fill the sink with water to wash our faces or whatever. Viola--a lake.
So, the mirror is Plath and Plath is the woman. Each morning while she went to brush her teeth, wash her face, take a shower and all those other personal things we do in the bathroom, she noticed the mirror, but she also realized that the mirror only reflected her own point of view, that it was only truthful to her own eyes. Also, when most of us wake up, we're not exactly looking too great -- by our own standards, at least. We see our hair all messed up, those unwanted approaching wrinkles, we REALLY need to brush our teeth, maybe a pimple snuck up on us in the middle of the night...all these things we see when we first wake up--it's not really that pleasant. So we fill the sink with water, bend over the counter, dunk our hands in it, "search [its] reaches" and "agitate" it a bit to mix around the soap and splash our face with some water. Then, as our face nears the sink of water to rinse off, we notice this very odd image that seems to rise towards us in the sink -- a 'FISH eye' view of our morning face...how "terrible" is that?!
Plath had drowned her youth in the sink as we all have. Over the years, we dry our faces look into the mirror and see another day go by. It's kind of depressing. But in that same day, someone else will tell us how pretty we look today, so it all comes down to perspective with physical appearance. With poetry, I think it is easy for us to get carried away by passionate words. But it's all just to convey a message and most of all, a feeling.
I would really like to give more of my philosophical interpretation of "Mirror", but this post is long enough already. I think "Mirror" is a masterpiece...truthfully speaking.
I am not trained to read and analyze poetry. I do it not as a poet or critique. I love reading them, talking to them, walking with them and being squared by them. 'Mirror' as a poem is nothing more and nothing less to me.
First stanza in this poem is 'definition' of a 'Mirror' that though we all can observe but only a gifted poet like Plath can articulate in words. A mirror, silver and smooth as all mirrors, standing at one corner, is reflecting everything truly without any preconceptions. The long standing companionship and an unbreakable relation with the opposite wall, which is pink in color and not as smooth as the mirror, is challenged every now and then by faces and darkness. So far obvious looking details of mirror turn rhetoric with introduction of these lines at the end of the first stanza:I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
The aesthetic expressions depicting completeness of the mirror, which Plath very suggestively compares with eyes of the god, now get a life and turn incomplete. Now it is not the mirror but the poet standing behind the mirror that is manifested in the poem. The mirror looses its completeness by showing preconceptions about faces and darkness. How come 'mirror' considers faces and darkness as hindrances!? The poet is despair and standing beside the mirror in search of solitary looking at the wall is disturbed by occasional intrusions and darkness. Hence, in the first stanza Plath is drawing a parallel between her and the mirror and speaks for her outer self.
The second stanza starts with the line: Now I am a lake. From mirror she now turns into a lake. Now, although the surface can reflect whatever comes in its reaches, it is neither silver nor exact and there is a lot of movement in lake. This is her inner self, her conscious self. Her outer self as an aging woman tries to console in the vast deepness of the conscious inner self. She turns introvert in search for the meaning of life. And, every now and then she tries to look for the joy and satisfaction in the outer world as well. Those moons and candles sometimes are able to reconcile her hurt soul and tries to make herself happy by looking for joys in small happenings in the life, but to no avail! And again turns inward with a lot of tears in her eyes. The poet is able very artistically to separate the inner and outer self and to show importance of conscious inner self. I am important to her. She comes and goes.
The body has no meaning and what is important is the inner self. The body transpires from youth to womanhood and the conscious inner self has witnessed all these changes with the passing time but with indifference. The metaphor of terrible fish here is one that causes turbulence in the lake i.e. the inner self. As the agitation of a terrible fish causes some movement in the surface of lake, the changing face of woman may spread uneasiness in the inner self but that all is present only in surface and is impermanent. The supremacy of inner self not affected by the worldly manipulation manifested in the outer self is the gist that the poet narrates in this poem through portraying herself as a mirror and a lake.
Reading the poem, I realized how melancholy the poet was because among all things surrounding her, Plath chooses a mirror to comment upon. Why? I couldn't find better words than hers "I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions." (L.1). Maybe the inertness of the mirror is what qualifies it to be of most interest since she feels that she is living a monotonous life; thus, everything around her has turned motionless. Or it is her loneliness that prompts her to meditate on the only thing remained with her; that is, an empty heart with no feelings or preoccupations. We can even conclude that the mirror may resemble her inactive life that turned into misery day by day.
Plath's sentimentality will capture everyone's heart and for her simplicity we can grasp a picture so beautiful and genuine. In (lll. 2,3&4) she starts to describe the mirror that exists in her life; a mirror that has no prejudice and accepts whatever is presented with no question. This attitude puts her into despair for she yearns for a change that is not there in her life. And unlike what happens in reality, the mirror will not be deluded by emotions and feelings 'unmisted by love or dislike' (l. 3) and will always confront a person with the bare facts even if these facts are terrifying 'I am not cruel, only truthful' (l. 4).
What strikes my mind is Plath's diction in the first introductory lines; she excels on making the words sound like facts with no emotions as if they were uttered by a machine; and that suggest how dismal life was. After that, Plath shifts this short-spoken words with a rather more extended ones to depict a brilliant relationship between the mirror and a wall that 'is pink, with speckles' (l.7). Now that may suggest that there is a sort of a barrier that interposes one's way to gain what s/he is hoping for. And the fact that the persona in this poem states that s/he has 'looked at it so long' (l. 7) suggests a monotony in life to the extent that makes one stares at something for a long time. Now why would anybody stare for that long time? Simply because s/he tries to find a solution or a way out of his/her dilemma. And so interestingly, the mirror starts to develop a relationship with this wall thinking of it as a part of his/her heart but there is an obstacle, it 'flickers'. 'Faces and darkness separate us' (l.9), joining the word faces with darkness indicates that these faces are not happy ones because they separate the mirror from its beloved wall. Moreover, we can go further to say that these faces, which definitely stand for people along with the darkness that we may tie with ignorance, may strand for another barrier that is against all the things that one longs to accomplish in life but fails to attain.
In the second stanza, we can trace the beginning of a story. The story of a woman, who spends her life chasing after a reflection, her own reflection on the mirror and it has to be a beautiful one for she will turn 'to those liars, the candles or the moon' (l.12), now why they are 'liars'? Well, this may be a support to the previous qualities of the mirror for it will always present the ultimate truth. The candles and the moon symbolize all the beautiful things in life, people turn to them whether they are in a happy mood or a sad one; furthermore, they are regarded as a source of inspiration that can change ones feelings from a state to another. But unlike them the mirror will 'reflect it faithfully' (l.13) and honestly but because people tend to neglect bitter reality and seek better one, the woman turns to what may inspire her and spare her the depression of facing the intimidating mirror. And so pathetically the mirror doesn't know what the woman feels because it miserably relates how she reacts saying, 'she rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands' (l.14). Now tears and agitation may result of either excitement, which I don't believe in, or calamities, which is more convenient.
In conclusion, this story of the woman ends as the mirror narrates in a triumphal way declaring that it is 'important to her' (l.15) for she can't resist standing in front of it to find what she really is as suggested previously in (l.11). And 'each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness' (l.16), here is another relationship that exist between the mirror and the woman; this relation portrays how it sees her, and so romantically its darkness is altered by the woman's face. This may also suggest the regularity and the monotony of the process in which she appear. An additional illustration would be the similarity of the woman's days for 'she has drowned a young girl,' in the mirror and 'an old woman' in it (l.17). So we can conclude that the mirror has watched her from the beginning of her life, observing her as she grows to a young woman and observing her as she withers and languishes to an old one.
One final point I would like to add and that is the use of the enjambment in (ll.2, 3) 'Whatever I see I swallow immediately just as it is,' and in (ll.10, 11) 'A woman bends over me, searching my reaches for what she really is.'
I strongly feel that " the mirror simbolizes Sylvia's consciousness after her marriage to Ted huges....she as a mirror has accepted "pink an speckeled wall-Ted Hughes". She had no preconceptions about him. She accepted him the way he is and reflected his faults back at him without prejudice, only problems" darkness" would ever once in a while seperate them.but she knew she was right ,therby describing herself as" the little god". She has been with her husband ...known him for so long that he has become a nature...a part of her just like the reflectedimage of the wall becomes a part of the mirror.retrospecting she realizes that she has lost herself in the "rat race".her concious takes the form of a lake when it comes to reflecting Sylvia. On the surface of the lake she can look at herself....her lost youth.but she does not find true self...thus she plunges deep in to her subconcious.she realizes how a false image wallpapered her vision during her youth....when ted had wooed her ....candlelight and moonlight which only exposed him partially, had led her to make a false decision which now she regerts. she calls the candlelight and the moonlight liars for this reason.
Sylvia goes through this "depression" termed as plunging into the endless depth of the lake where she searches for her youth....not just for the mere reason of looking good but to go back from the terrible moments of her life to her innocent past.each morning she realizes of her mistake, her passing time, her urge to let go, her want to die and thus forget all. Thus she subconciously has prepared to die by stating that her life is almost over as she can see her death ...her old self who cannot fight any more emerging towards her ....this is her mind (due to acute depression)inclining towards death.this line explains the fish part.the fish symbolizes her need for death constantly coming towards her from the subconcious.....an example of acute depression.
This poem is layered and to try to understand it the reader must look at the basic level and than decide what this basic level represents.
The first stanza is describing a mirror 'silver and exact' is a simple description of the mirror, it is silver in colour and appears exact as itperfectly smooth. The next few lines describe how the image that a mirror presents is a reflection of whatever is in front of it and not an interpetation of what is in front of it (thus the mirror is not cruel but truthful).Now to me the mirror is actually a metaphor for sylvia. She is saying that her poetry reflects the world around her, she is not meaning to be cruel with her work but simply truthful. I am not sure why Sylvia uses the pink wall, but my theory is that the colour represnts femininity. This is sygnificatn because in the next line 'I have looked at it so long I think it is a part of my heart' i think that sylvia is saying that for her entire life society has expected her to act like a female and that she has been doing it for so long that now she thinks it must be a part of who she is.
In the next stanza sylvia uses a lake as a metaphor for herself which is again a reflecting surface. An old woman comes to look in the lake and although the image she is presented with upsets her she continues to come back. This demonstrates that humans have an innate urge to try and see themselves as they really are, even if the image is sometimes not what they want it to be.
Sylvia describes the moon and candlelight as liers, this is because they are able to hide peoples flaws. I beleive this is a symbol of how people lie to themselves about who they truly are, hide their true selves with material wealth etc.
The last two line descirbe how the old woman is aging. The image of drowning a young girl is very powerful, the old woman feels as if she has wasted her youth and she is very scared about getting older. This is also a criticism on the amount of emphasis society places on people (in particular women) looking good on the outside.
I also dont have an answer for what the fish metaphor means. i think that the fish may just be a symbol of nature and what sylvia is saying is that no one can escape the power of nature; no one can escape getting old and dying.
Anyway those are my ideas, any feedback would be appreciated. I would also like to say that poetry invites analysis and although it is true that people can look too deep in some poems, the reason the author has written the poem and not written an analysis to go wiht it is because they want people to read it and interpret it and just because a person has not been trained in analyising poetry does not mean their interpretation is any less valid than someones who has
I would just like to say that this page is such a great help in identifying the underlying meanings of this poem. I have to do a speech on Sylvia Plath's Mirror, and must admit that when I first looked at the poem I only had a blurred idea of what to say. However, now thanks to the many people who have contributed their ideas here, it has helped me clarify my own thoughts. Like many others, I was struck by the ending with its mention of the fish, but now on closer inspection, I can see how the fish symbol has been highlighted in the first stanza as well - the pink speckled wall is like the pink speckled salmon.
Just picking up on someone else's inquiry on the start of the poem - "I am silver and exact", perhaps it is simply connoting that because a mirror is silver and exact, what you see is what you get. Perhaps this line means exactly what you read.
Thanks again to all those who have helped me analyze the tricky parts to this poem.
I'm only 15 and I don't know much about poetry or Sylvia Plath. However, after reading "Mirror" about 10 times I think I have an understanding of what is being portrayed in the poem. I may be completely off, but if they're not, I hope my insights will be of use to someone. I believe this poem has a spiritual message. First of all, I think the mirror represents God and his unconditional truthfullness and faith in anyone and everyone who he looks upon. The opposite wall that he constantly looks at is the heart or soul of the person. It is speckled because nobody is perfect. The faces that flickers in front of it is the faulse image we try to present to him because we are assamed or doubtful of ourselves. The darkness represents evil and sin. The lake is looked at by those who cannot find their anwers in God. The like represents the life of the person who is looking back on their past. It is phrased "Now I am a lake" because God was their throughout the person's life. The candles the woman looks to represent sins and the moon is the devil. Finally the fish reprents age. It swims toward the suface of the water as age gradually begins to show in the womans face. When the fish finally reaches the suface, the image is broken. This is death.
With a statement like this, I certainly should have the decency to back it up. Well, here goes:
First of all, it is important to realize that the first stanza does not have a major character. It is simply about the mirror. We find the Importance of the second stanza right away with the first sentence: "Now, I am a lake." The abrupt and terse change in tone accentuates the change in reflection that has taken place. So, what is the change?
The first stanza concentrated on the exactness of the mirror. "[The mirror] has no preconceptions." Humans on the other hand, "turn to those liars, the candles or the moon" for a soft light that will hide any wrinkles or sun spots that might otherwise disturb a preconceived notion of one's own self-image. The mirror is a metaphor for trutha factual reality. It parallels a different kind of truth, one defined by combining this exact physical reflection and a hidden and esoteric truth unable to be comprehended by anyone other than the individual viewing the mirrors reflection. This second truth is relative to humans alone; no other thing, organic or inorganic ponders life the way we do.
Mirror is very much about human nature and our ability or inability to cope with death. Plath elucidates to some extent the pain associated with the aging process, by contrasting the mirror with the woman [who] bends over [the mirror]/ searching [its] reaches for what she really is. The woman will always see an ever-changing reflection of herself in the mirror. Nevertheless, she can chose to never look in the mirror at all or she can chose to dwell on the fact that she her youth is being taken over by the aging old woman/ [that] rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish. The terrible fish is an analogous fear of the woman. The mirror has no such analogies to relate to. It only meditates on the opposite wallpink with speckles. It cannot comprehend what that means. It just is. And the mirror will continue to reflect obediently for all eternity as long as an outside force does not physically break it. Conversely, the one thing the woman has no control over is her death. Someday, she will be no more and it will be her face that replaces the darkness (but on a much more literal level than initially suggested by looking at this line). And when death finally surfaces to the outer most layer of the womans skin, the mirror will once again meditate on the opposite wall until another face splits its reflection over and over.
We are reminded that the woman in this poem is not alone in the way she thinks about herself. We too allow our physical reflection to become a valid indication of our aging soul; hence the omniscience of the little god, for cornered. The reference to four corners being suggestive of the four points of a compass or the four corners of the world: everyone experiences the youthful drowning that the woman in the poem experiences day after day.
Just a quick comment on the oh-so debated fish reference. Perhaps, maybe, she didn't mean too much when she wrote it, simply that on some cold ugly morning she thought she looked like a fish? They're not very pleasant.
And as far as analysing goes, maybe you're all right, or none of you. I would think that Sylvia Plath intentionally put several meanings into a poem, or made it mystical on purpose in order to allow people to apply her words to their own lives....A HREF="mailto:MarilynMonroe@white-star.com">Caroline
Tuesday, February 5, 2002
Debbi, she is talking about and pondering on her reflection in a mirror which itself is described as "silver and exact". I think it also possible to see the poem as a meditation on the importance of appearance to women in our culture. There are also some very good postings in this section on the meaning of this poem.
Hi there - I'm a 6th year student and I am studying Advanced Higher English - I really don't understand this poem. What is she trying to convey here? I know she is talking about herself, but I don't understand why she has actually wrote this poem. I'm not looking for an essay on this, just some pointers - I don't get the imagery used at the start "I am silver and exact." What does she mean? Please Help!!!!!!
Hi! I just want to say, I absolutely love this poem, I did it for my junior cert and the words are just so amazing. I dont know a lot of Sylvias work but I love this poem and it is the best I read so far! Sorry I just had to say it!!!
First, background on me : I have a BA in English and for one of my classes I did an analysis of this poem. And of course, that fish gave me a hell of time. Now I work in a library. We've been doing some book weeding, and I came across this :
---note, copied WITHOUT permission, but here's the information on the author and publication:
The first to awaken will be the Fish. Deep in the mirror we will perceive a very faint line and the color of this line will be like no other color. Later on, other shapes will begin to stir. Little by little they will differ from us; little by little they will not imitate us. They will break through the barriers of glass or metal and this time will not be defeated. Side by side with these mirror creatures, the creatures of water will join the battle."
And a bit of background about this legend :
Whew!! Blew my mind the first time I read it and realized what it was! So the speaker is one of the defeated mirror people, waiting for the day the magic spell wears off and she'll awaken to defeat humankind. The "old woman" indicates the time is a long way off, but the mirror person can wait.
What are your thoughts?
I don't think you're alone, Tom in your reaction against what you see as the over intellectualising of poetry. I believe it was Wordsworth who said, "We murder to dissect." And more recently Susan Sontag's words: "Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art," must have been appreciated by the creative victims of literary critics. I'd be interested to see what you or anyone else would say about this poem in a manner that you feel would not butcher it.
I believe that it is futile, tasteless and ignorant to butcher any great literary/poetic work beyond all justification, as I have seen done on this page. I am troubled by the fact that rather than enjoying the poem for its crypticism and ingenuity, it is over-analysed and read too closely. I probably sound like a fool who does not understand the poem, but I am merely angered by the pseudo-intellectuals who think it clever to bludgeon the glory of such a work. I feel that this is true for most pieces of literature today, of which the analysis has exceed grossly any justification, and has been taken to irrelevant and fantastic realms.
I hope I have stressed the importance of appreciating the poem, and by all means one can analyse it, but I urge you not to taint such a piece with the vile pigment of intellectual aspiration.I would like to hear any responses to this, please.
I believe "Mirror", is the standard identity crisis poem, starting off like a riddle, asking the reader who's talking. Then Plath goes on exploring a woman's feelings about aging, and anyone who knows any bit about Plath, KNOWS she is very self conscious and paranoid. The woman from the 10th line on, is like time or the annual aging part of life (birthdays etc.), coming back again and again, lingering in the writer's, and many people's thoughts.
I'm new to this type of thing, but not completely unaware. I don't think any interpretation can be construed as wrong - only the poet knows the true meaning, and even then, sometimes it isn't really that momentous. Ive written some of my own stuff, as did [probably] most everyone else at this site; and I sometimes have more than one thought about what, and how I want to say something. Everyone sees Sylvia as the girl in front of the mirror, and not as the mirror itself; spouting the truth to someone else (i.e. A friend, or her young daughter). Maybe this wasnt about where shes at in life, but instead someone seeking her acquiescence, or approval.
I may be way out in left field, but I think this poem should be taken at face value. Sylvia was a very open and honest person, and therefore, she is the mirror, which cannot lie. I dont think she is the weeping girl looking into the mirror every morning, but the mirror itself (as I mentioned earlier, I think the weeping girl was either her daughter, or friend in need of some confidence boosting). Her life [was] to her, habitual, and deficient.
She [Sylvia] was very perceptive, and when people stood in front of her she absorbed (swallowed) every nuance about them. She was honest with them, and reflected back the absolute truth not to harm them, but because it was the truth. Most people are vain enough to worship a mirror (a reflection of themselves). Sylvia, like the mirror, often told them, they were not always whom they perceived themselves to be.
The life of a mirror would be[come] mundane, as her life was to her. The only thing a one-dimensional mirror could see, and quickly become allies with, was the apposing wall. This alliance was often interrupted by darkness, and the occasional viewer standing between them.
Most people at one time or another has looked into a mirror trying to discover their real identity; who they really are, and what their purpose is, or was. Most walked away [from her] disappointed. When the girl turns away grieving over her self image, Sylvia sticks to her perceptions for the truth is always better [than the romantic interludes of the moon, or a burning candle.
I of course welcome any comments.
Hello. I seem to be the only English person here. I have read 'Mirror', and some other of Plath's work, and find them immensely inspiring but yet cryptically pleasing. Many of the comments which have been made here are very insightful and perceptive, so well done. In Mirror, I feel that the existence of the "terrible fish" parallels the duality of Plath's life. It dwells both within the image in the mirror, and outside of it in her corporeal features. I like how Plath exploits the subtleties of the crypticism to imply the desired undertone. There are themes of ageing, a very relevant subject given Plath's mental state of mind. As you probably know, she did fall mentally ill, but I feel that this certainly did not limit her poetic abilities. I hope you continue to enjoy Plath for years to come.
'Mirror' is one of Plath's few poems where she maintains some degree of thematic centrality. In most of her other works, after the opening thought, she takes a drastic departure to some extraneous domain. Presumably, she needed her mirror to brush her hair or apply make-up, but the image of her face was a reminder of some deep-seated trepidation in her heart.
I am not too hot at analysing stuff as I always want to end up seeing everything in a way that no one else sees. I think that poems are taken on too many levels and the reader should imagine what the poet is trying to say literally and not in a bit of space between the lines. I think that when Sylvia says "now I am a lake"I think that she is crying and so her reflection is distorted as if she is looking into a a reflection in a not so calm lake.
I think this is a very important poem as Plath is looking at herself and trying to understand, but she looks too hard, literally and so she sees things. Try looking at yourself in the mirror for a long time when you are by yourself, I freak myself out a lot doing it,I think this is what happened here. Candlelight and moonlight are both 'nice' lights and compliment people's features, and Plath does not like lies. Truth. She is very truthful.
Please do e-mail me with your comments or questions on my opinion, I am fascinated to hear!
I have written a commentary on this poem for my eleventh grade English language composition class, where we analyze several poems a month. I have already turned this commentary in.. but I thought that this poem is very interesting.
This poem, like "Two Sisters of Persephone," seems to be a medium through which Plath reveals a part of herself to the world through her poetry. Her desire to be faithful and truthful to those she encounters results in the personification of the narrator as "reflection." She displays a bit of romanticism when she mentions nature in line 10, where she becomes a lake. Another possible explanation for Plath's personification could be the homage that she is paying to the one thing in her life that is a constant. Perhaps she is beginning to fell that life is a lie, and seeks stability in a mirror. The reflection seems sorrowful that the woman is tearful at the truth that the reflection provides. IN a way, the cold hard truth may be too much for the woman to handle, and causes her sadness. The reflection seen sto take this the wrong way, and feels like it has failed the woman somehow.
Furthermore, the way that the mirror is described, as the "eye of a little god" (5), makes the mirror seem omniscient. Perhaps Plath wishes to attain this immortality and clarity of thought. The wall, however, puzzles me. Does the mirror wish to have stability and a constant in its life like Plath (or the narrator)? Or is it merely displaying the frustration it has at not being able to be put to complete use all of the time?
La Palma, USA
Monday, February 12, 2001
I think this poem is very vulnerable and relates to Sylvia Plath's life. I don't think it should be taken at "face value." Poets write from what's in their hearts and Sylvia's self-perception was eating away at her. When she did go for reassurance she only found the plain and simple truth. But she never did find her true self because of her tragic ending-as to what she thought was the only solution. She wants others to know of the constant struggle to find self worth and self-fullfillment. She wants to portray simply and plainly ( no rhyme and fairly short ) so others can relate who don't like digging deeper, but those of us who do can find many things to relate it to.
Teacher of English 12